Practice Perspectives | Winter 2020
Don’t Just Survive: Thrive
2021 is your year to stop barely getting by and instead invest in a strategy for profitable CPA firm growth.
President, Kuesel Consulting
The word “survival” carries the connotation of meager rations, close calls, adverse conditions,
and a fight to simply exist—and for many CPA firm leaders, survival may have been the theme
for 2020. But will that theme carry into 2021? 2020 brought so many surprises that many of
us have been stuck in a cycle of reacting rather than making proactive decisions. But we’ve
learned some lessons from a tough year, and now we should implement those lessons and
plan for more than just getting by: It’s time to build a plan to thrive in 2021.
Here are three strategies to point you in the right direction.
A note before we start: I do not define thriving as cost-cutting your way to profitability. I
know you accountants possess the skills to watch the bottom line closely—this will be an
exercise in growing the top line, while making sure that each strategy contributes to overall
STRATEGY #1: RAISE THE BAR FOR NEW CLIENTS
You may feel like you’re struggling to meet current clients’ needs, let alone court and serve
new business. One way to steer your firm toward profitable growth is to take the approach
of quality over quantity. Your new clients should come in at a higher minimum, have the
capability of buying multiple services, and see a relationship with your firm as a true
partnership. Once you learn how to attract and retain better clients, this trajectory will only
accelerate as your high-value clients spread the word.
STRATEGY #2: DON’T TRIM ALL THE FAT
Nobody wants a repeat of 2020’s busy season—maybe the longest and most stressful that
we’ve ever experienced. Our kneejerk reaction to the pure unpredictability of the pandemic
was often to become a leaner organization, trimming the fat wherever possible. Here’s the
problem with that approach: If you remain too lean for too long, you will burn out employees,
lose great talent, and end up worse off than before. You can’t make incredible gains on
meager rations. I’ve advised my clients to staff up to the best of their ability, hiring more
employees and interns than in previous years, even in the midst of uncertainty. The worst-case
scenario? You’ll have extra hours available to serve current and new clients, while
keeping workloads from hitting punishing levels.
STRATEGY #3: CREATE MUST-HAVE SOLUTIONS TO URGENT NEEDS
Business owners have been swamped by a wave of urgent, life-or-death business decisions
since March and many less urgent decisions and plans have been put on the back burner.
Sadly, changing accounting firms does not usually qualify as urgent, so you may be seeing
limited opportunities for new business. But what if you can offer unique answers to their
urgent questions? Firms that think outside the box and mold their services to bring new
value and must-have solutions will find new clients come clamoring. To create these
solutions, think about your current clients. What pandemic-specific services have they
snapped up? What is their most pressing concern, and how can you help with it? The
answers to these questions can serve as a guide as to what your prospective clients might
also want from you.
These are just a few ideas to kickstart your own plan. 2021 could be a great year to formally
expand your consulting and service offerings, complete a merger, or hire some great talent
to boost your bench. Go beyond cost-cutting and make some strategic bets on your future.
We’ve learned so much in the past year: It’s time to apply this new knowledge to push past
mere survival and chart a course to thrive in 2021!